This month I am featuring Anna Rodriguez from Utah, sometimes referred to as “Artful Dodge-Her” (read on to find out why)! She’s the incredible woman behind the blog The Burnout Book, working to create conversation around burnout and in her own words, “passionate about helping nurses keep their spark!” She’s offered great information and practical tips in this interview and I’m so excited to be able to share it with all of you!
Tell me about your background. Where do you call home? If you’re currently traveling, where in the world are you?
I grew up in a small town in Idaho and I’m the youngest of 11 kids! I have lots of fun memories growing up in a big family and we still get together once a year in July for family reunions. I thought I was different when I became the only medical professional in my family, but I started my Master of Nursing Education degree this year and now I’m joining my dad and multiple siblings as educators. My husband and I live in Salt Lake City, Utah and have called it home since 2018. With work and school, we’ll be here for the foreseeable future. We also have a dog, a 2 year old Corgi named Walter.
What kind of nursing do you do and how long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been a nurse since 2008 (11 years now!) and I’ve worked in a variety of areas: medical/surgical, telemetry, cardiovascular ICU, nurse manager of that same CVICU, ICU/PCU travel nurse, critical care float pool, and currently endoscopy. Procedural nursing is actually really enjoyable and the GI world is fascinating!
Why did you choose to become a nurse?
When I was in 6th grade, my best friend’s mom was a CNA and her sister was a nurse. My friend planted the idea of being a nurse and the idea was that we’d both become pediatric nurses and have a clinic where we’d hang out with kids all day. We both became nurses, but we both discover pediatrics wasn’t for us and we both happily work with adults! I did some volunteering as a hospital transporter in high school and worked as a CNA during nursing school semesters, just to make sure I was going to like it. And nursing has been an awesome fit for me, I love the mix of science, detective work, critical thinking, and caring for others that it gives and how you can get one degree and then take it a hundred different ways. It’s a very rewarding job.
How did you choose which unit you wanted to work on?
My first couple jobs I worked wherever they were hiring and where I could get an interview! Now, with some experience, I have the luxury of being more selective with here I want to work. I enjoy critical care, but I like my current job in Endoscopy because it provides great work/life balance! I was also diagnosed with Crohn’s disease earlier in 2019 so being in the GI world is actually really helpful to expose me to more information and I’m able to relate to my patients.
I’m a huge advocate of preventing nurse burnout. What does nurse burnout mean to you?
Yes! I love meeting other people who are passionate about this topic! Nurse burnout is tricky and it’s complicated. We can go to the basic definition from the World Health Organization and say burnout is an “occupational phenomena” that manifests as 1) physical, emotional, mental exhaustion, 2) cynicism or detachment, and 3) feeling ineffective in your job. But burnout, to me, is the end stage of a combination of things: experiencing moral distress at work, compassion fatigue, being bullied, not feeling valued (feedback and/or financial), poor leadership, difficult patients/families, high acuity, short-staffed, the list goes on and on! Burnout isn’t one bad day, it’s bad days at a chronic level and it’s chronic stress that eats away at you until you realize you don’t feel like yourself. You don’t have the energy to do the things you used to do after work or on your days off and you’re trying to recover from each shift that drains you. Burnout is sneaky, so it’s important to know what it is so you can be on the lookout for it in yourself and others.
Have you ever experienced nurse burnout yourself?
Absolutely! I think most of us have to some degree. The National Academy of Medicine report on clinician burnout published in 2019 estimated that 35-54% of nurses and doctors are experiencing symptoms of burnout!
My first REAL burnout moment came when I was working as a nurse manager of a 10-bed CVICU. I found that I struggled with separating life and work and I’d be stressing about manager stuff during my evenings and weekends. Then, about a year into managing, we launched an ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) program and our first ECMO patient stayed on the device for 66 days so we had to quickly adjust to things we weren’t expecting: staffing 2 nurses to 1 patient, high patient acuity, and ethically/morally challenging situations. We were pushed to new limits we didn’t know we had and I saw the nurses get burned out and I went through it myself! It all worked out in the end as we adjusted (hired travel RNs, found ways to build resilience, etc.) but I ended up transitioning back to the bedside after two years as a manager because I knew I couldn’t last long term in that role. I spent the next year as a travel nurse, trying to figure out what happened to me and my staff and that’s when I became obsessed with the topic of burnout and how to avoid it in the future (and share my experience with others so they can avoid it too!). I started a blog and website in 2018, The Burnout Book, and in 2019, I started speaking at a few nursing conferences across the country!
So how are you trying to combat or prevent nurse burnout?
There are so many things I wish I knew back then when I went through burnout the first time!
- Setting boundaries. It’s important to realize you can give and give and give your energy and time to the point that you have nothing left when you get home to your family at the end of the day day. This leads to burnout so fast. It’s okay to leave your shift at the end of the day. It’s not healthy to dwell on the “what-ifs?” It’s okay to say “no” to picking up an extra shift so you can rest and recharge.
- Healthy body. Sleep is a big one for me! I can’t compromise on that. Eating healthy, staying active, all of that plays a role. Getting outside with my dog is a favorite.
- Be proactive with self-care. Take time to do the things that make me happy: lunch with friends, a good TV show or a book, or yoga. I also try and optimize my time so I’m doing things on my day off that allows me to come home and relax after working a long shift. I do the meal subscription boxes for dinner so my husband and I don’t have to have the nightly “what should we eat?” conversation and so I don’t have to shop as much, and I love that!
- Support system. I have an amazing husband and awesome friends who get me through the tough things. Having a support system is HUGE.
- The Burnout Book. The name of my website/blog is the name I use for a little green notebook that I write all my positive nurse experiences in thank-yous, compliments, funny stories, etc. and when I’m feeling burned out, I flip through that book and reconnect with my “why.” Now I use social media to connect with others and support other nurses who are going through similar things that I went through and providing resources and support.
That being said, I can do ALL the right things and still get burned out. There’s only so much you can do as an individual. You need the organization to support you as well! This is where things like the position statements from the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) about healthy work environments come into play. They set the standard for organizations and then it’s up to leaders to implement those standards. The AACN six standards for healthy work environments are appropriate staffing, authentic leadership, true collaboration, meaningful recognition, skilled communication, and effective decision making. Their website has a free survey nurses can take and provides resources and a toolkit to help organizations realize what areas need attention and improvement. These can apply to all units, not just critical care/progressive care!
Before ending, tell me one fun fact about yourself unrelated to nursing.
My favorite fun fact is that I used to roller skate on a roller derby team! I did it for two years and loved it! Awesome group of ladies, such a cool experience, but I wasn’t able to make it to practice 3 nights a week when I was a manager and that’s when I retired from skating. But I still think it’d be fun to get back at it someday! In case you’re wondering, my roller derby name was “Artful Dodge-Her.”
Where can people find you?
Website and blog: www.theburnoutbook.com
If you want to talk about your experience with nurse burnout or know of someone who does, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org